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Improving access to justice

“Many people just don’t get the necessary support,” explains family consultant Liz, “This isn’t about the support they receive not being worthwhile, but rather about their needs being more than can be met by their care package. Many of these situations mean the Care Act or Mental Capacity Act has not been adhered to, and that in itself is unlawful.”

That’s why Dimensions, as part of a coalition of social care organisations led by Mencap, is co-funding an expert Legal Support Service.

The aim is to provide easy access to legal information and early legal help for our managers in order to get better, quicker outcomes for the people we support around issues like:

  •  Funding cuts
  •  Issues relating to assessments, eligibility, and care planning
  •  Problems relating to safeguarding, independent advocacy or reasonable adjustments
  •  Problems with welfare benefits
  •  Funding disputes including interagency and inter-local authority disputes
  •  Issues relating to hospital care or unsafe discharge

We believe strongly that, despite 35% cuts to Legal Aid in recent years, people we support have a right to access justice and, specifically, to have their rights under the Care Act and Mental Capacity Act safeguarded and upheld.

The service is proving powerful. Here we share several different experiences. In so doing, we hope to encourage more social care providers to join the coalition and thus better champion the legal rights of the people they support, too:

Finance manager Emma has already used the Legal Support Service six times, three of which have had positive outcomes for the person we support (the rest are ongoing.) Emma says,

Jade supports a lady who lives with her husband, who also has a learning disability, and their young son. There are court proceedings underway over whether the parents can adequately look after their little boy, who is also undergoing assessments for having learning disabilities himself.

Armed with advice from the Legal Support Service, Jade was able to persuade the judge to appoint an independent parenting assessor and an independent social worker not tied to the local authority.

Helen works with locality managers who are supporting people who are new to Dimensions or whose circumstances are changing. She is currently helping managers in three ongoing cases, including one gentleman who needs to move from group to single living and another who is leaving a children’s home after turning 18 but whose application for independent living has so far been rejected by his local authority.

Helen is a great advocate for the Legal Support Service. “Contact them”, she urges. “There is no daft question. Find out if you have a right to challenge!”

To find out more about the legal advice service, go to www.mencap.org.uk/contact/legal_coalition